Facing the Future

by Krista Soboh

traffic-lights-466950_1280I received this post when we were just launching the blog.  I liked it, and I saved it.

Now our posts have greater scope, but I believe we still are most concerned with the here and now.  After all, we have to manage the present in order to have a reasonable future.

Krista suggests we have to define the problems facing our schools, not the current issues, but those that are relevant to the world our children will confront.  My kids talk about the ‘skill sets’ they need for whatever job comes up.  They expect change, not careers.  They are prepared. 

After scrolling through this blog, I was disappointed to see scant attention paid to the major disruptive challenges we are facing in education in the 21st century. The challenges are so great and transformational that they will fundamentally alter the process of how we do education for the first time in 1000 years.

My sense is that the League members interested in education and legislation are retired teachers, who have graduated from years of teaching in traditional schools and want to bring insights and well meaning reform to the educational system. Perhaps they were attracted to education not just because they care about children, but because they sought a career in a world that is safe and predictable.

But as a mother of 3 children, close to the pulse of the global and technological economic forces affecting my husbands career, I can no longer safely predict what future skills I am preparing my children for. The skills that traditional schools are teaching no longer make sense.

The culture of industrial age schools still teaching the three R’s is on a collision course with the world where google knows everything, knowledge is dynamic and has flow, and learning is self-organized. This type of iterative learning, enabled by technology, is more powerful than learning that is directed by state mandates, which create complacency and mediocrity. What we really need to do here is to define the problem. And that is going to require a lot deeper level of thinking, to get to the root of what is happening in the world.

Incremental changes like charter schools just perpetuate the status quo. We need to pivot here from charter schools and have a conversation that speaks to our immediate problem. To define the problem it will require us to think backwards. First describe the phenomenon thats happening the world, how thats affecting the workplace, the skills that we need for those jobs, how those changes are affecting preparation in the universities and how that is going to affect the K-12 system. That is the conversation we should be having.

We all know we don’t need students that are college-ready. Forty-one percent of college graduates are in low paying jobs that do not require a college degree, according to a Federal Reserve report, Spring 2014. Nobody cares what you know these days. We need students that are innovation-ready and that requires a radically different educational model.

If I were going to explain the problem we are facing, I would borrow Bryan Setser’s definition from the 2 Revolutions website: The education model used in many classrooms across our country can find its roots in the 20th century-in which students, organized by age move at the same time and pace through their learning experience. Yet after decades of research and experiences in the K-12 classroom, coupled with a world where technologies have transformed the opportunities available to us, this system no longer makes much sense.

Competency-based education transforms this traditional model. It shifts the focus of learning from time to mastery, from purely summative assessments to formative experiences and most important, creates personalized pathways for each student to move at their own pace and ability to meet their learning needs. Because of the tremendous leadership challenges this presents, we need the advice from national experts like Bryan Setser to help us create a roadmap for the future of learning.

Posted in Reform.

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